“61 years ago in Hiroshima…”

“61 years ago, this coming August the 6th, I was on landing craft manpower headed for the invasion of Japan. I was going to die. I knew it.  At two o’clock in the afternoon, we were invited down into the hold of the ship to listen to the news of the bomb. It saved our lives. We had a hell of a party. We all got snookered.  As soon as the surrender was signed they put us on a train. I think the train went directly to Hiroshima, but I’m not sure. I know I was in Hiroshima when it was still warm. So we are talking weeks, at most (after the dropping of the atomic bomb).  The few people left, this I can remember vividly, made lean-to’s because they didn’t have a problem with it being too cold.  And they poked holes in the water mains on the corners—they put wooden pegs in it then take the peg out to get some water. Of course it was all radioactive.  None of us knew it.  I wasn’t there very long so while I’ve taken precautions—the dentist doesn’t take pictures of my teeth—but I don’t have any radiation damage that I know of.  And I made it to 80 years old so it looks like it’s ok.  So I didn’t really suffer, except spiritually.  Seeing what happened to people.  All of these hate films that we saw were false. We’d been lied to by our own government—because they’re people. And I can still remember it vividly as if it were yesterday. An old Japanese gentleman out to wish me bon voyage because I was going home. It was about 4 o’clock in the morning. A Human Being. So I came home a mixed-up guy.”

Lee Thomas is the one business executive I have ever met with pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi on the wall of his office! Lee Thomas is a Quaker who committed his life to non-violence after personally witnessing Hiroshima one month after the dropping of the atomic bomb. More important, Lee’s story is one of his own personal transformation. From being a young, scared soldier who took part in the party on board his ship once they heard about the dropping of the bomb…to a mature but confused young man who came home searching for truth after feeling his own government had lied to him. For me, the lesson that I learned from interviewing Lee is that I must be willing to question authority and discern the truth especially in treatment of fellow human beings…or I cannot truly say I am on a spiritual journey.